A Swinomish Birthday Paddle

August 12, 2019 – My 53rd birthday. After a sleepless night for me, Con, Vern, and I had breakfast, packed up gear and boats and headed out to deposit boats and vehicles at the launch and take out for a paddle from Ala Spit to the twin bridges above LaConnor. The launch went smoothly. We allowed for extra time to get between points in case of construction delays.

The State is painting the Deception Pass bridge. They have these special “sound isolation” rings around their equipment on each end of the bridge as well as warning signs that there is lead involved in the project so pregnant women, etc. be warned. Our local Cathlamet to Puget Island bridge was just repainted and we didn’t get sound muffling or lead warning signs. The Deception Pass bridge was built before ours, but maybe because of the hundreds of thousands of people walking over both sides of the Deception Pass bridge all the time, there is more justification in these protections. Whereas the two dozen people who walk over our bridge just don’t make the case for the same protections. I would have liked at least the sound muffling on our bridge. Just sayin’.

The three of us launched from Ala Spit (another area that has had human intervention in the past century or so and has now been opened up to do what it does naturally) just after 10:30 am and headed toward Goat Island. It was low tide when we launched and we spent some time exploring the small channels inside the mudflats between Fidalgo Island and Goat Island. We had to do some backtracking to get to a passable channel, and then tried finding the infamous “Hole in the Wall” in the riprap jetty that runs between Skagit Bay and Swinomish Channel. It allows a small boater to cross from one to the other closer in to both places. Unfortunately right now it is filled with large pieces of driftwood and is impassible.

So back around Goat Island we went. We stopped for lunch on Goat Island and then caught a nice ride on the flood tide up Swinomish Channel. This is a very narrow channel, much narrower than I expected. Mercifully, pretty much the entire thing is a no wake zone so a kayaker doesn’t need to worry much about getting mowed down by a speed boat. In fact, all of the motor boats were very friendly to us.

It took very little time for us to make the remaining 5.5 miles between the cute artsy town of LaConnor at the south end of the channel to the twin bridges boat launch at the north end of the channel. With a few breaks and side trips, it took us a little over six hours to do the total 15.8-mile paddle. Finally! I’ve been paddling with Con for 4-5 years. It has ALWAYS been a challenge for me to keep up with her. It has taken me paddling almost 800 miles in two and a half months to finally be able to keep up with her.

After our paddle, we swung by Bowman Bay on the north side of Deception Pass. Wow! Because it’s so packed this time of year, we couldn’t get an affordable campsite there, but tomorrow we can and will definitely paddle there. Then we picked up shuttle vehicles, ate a birthday supper, played Farkle (my first time), and turned in for the night.

Since the tides don’t require us to get up at any certain time tomorrow, I am putting in ear plugs. The constant navy jets flying overhead, Highway 20 traffic passing by all night, and campground noises will be muffled. Maybe I will sleep well. That would be nice.

Goat Island on the far right.
Goat Island up close.

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Juvenile Bald Eagle. There were many of these as well as adults on Goat Island and in the channel.
A Great Blue Heron on Almost Every Piling
I was captivated by this wire salmon scultpure in LaConnor.

Written by

kyleenaustin

I am passionate about outdoor exploration. In the recent years I have discovered how much more I can experience from a kayak. I am a professional musician and own a dairy where we produce raw milk, butter and cheeses. My son tells me I have "too much on my plate". He is correct, but I wouldn't live life any other way.

6 thoughts on “A Swinomish Birthday Paddle

  1. Happy 53rd Kyleen! I’m about to celebrate my 80th and a lot of friends and family will help me close this decade and hopefully start another! It’s a bitter sweet feeling…I’m definitely approaching the end of my life here on earth, but I have lived a very interesting and adventurous life so far for which I am so GRATEFUL.
    YOU ARE ONE OF MY INSPIRATION PERSONS! ❤️❤️❤️❤️
    Keep on paddling!
    Manu’

  2. We spent a few days in La Conner and loved it. Are the wild turkeys still running around town? Happy Birthday, it sounds like you are having a blast.

  3. Happy Birthday Kyleen! I’m getting caught up on your blog after a trip east (Ottawa, Toronto) to see family. It’s a wonderful escape from my regular day to day routine to read about your adventures. Love the descriptions and photos of wildlife, especially now that I’m back into city life in Vancouver. Wishing you all the best for the last weeks of your trip!

  4. Just a little belated, Happy Birthday, Kyleen. What an amazing journey you are having. Thank you so much for sharing it with all of us. We are patiently awaiting your return to Skamokawa and Puget Island. I am docenting at the Redman Hall today. The Wahkiakum County Fair has started next door. Sending love and all good wishes for your smooth passage home. Onward! Regards, Cynthia

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